Sunday, May 10, 2009

Art Carts and Art Education Survey

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council in eastern Pennsylvania just published a survey about how the arts are faring in schools. It’s a regional survey, but it probably speaks to problems that face art teachers everywhere, especially in these tough economic times.

A few of the findings:
1. Fewer and fewer art teachers have their own dedicated classrooms, and many are heroically teaching from art carts. Schools with limited space often replace art classrooms with computer rooms.

2. Collaborations between art teachers and other curriculum areas, such as geography or science, are much more common in elementary and middle school levels, and harder to find at the high school level.

3. It’s also harder for high school art teachers to organize field trips or to get support from parents and funding groups.

The arts council is facing these somewhat discouraging trends by reminding parents, business people, and school administrators how important the arts are to the growth of young people. They’re working with an allocation from the Pennsylvania state budget that was cut back more than eight percent from the previous level.

You can read more about the survey, conducted by Paul Dino Jones at Lehigh Valley Live. and Morning Call Newspaper Article.

Press notice
about my keynote at the Arts-In-Education gathering.

13 comments:

Andrew Wales said...

I used to have to do art on a cart! In one of my schools, it was an old grocery store cart!

Some of this news is discouraging. I consider a big part of my job the task of educating the public about the good things going on. It's not enough to teach art to kids. We have to be our own public relations and press agents.

Maybe we need to start our own booster clubs with sympathetic parents as well?

The school where I teach is extremely generous from both the administrative end and the parent teacher group, who recently financed a visit from James Gurney!

James Gurney said...

Andrew Wales is an amazing example of an art teacher who inspires not only the kids but the faculty and community as well. You can read about his work at his blog "Panel Discussion"
http://andrewwales.blogspot.com/

and the Lynch Bustin Art Room:
http://lbartroom.blogspot.com/

Erik Bongers said...

My sister is a primary school teacher and she gives a subject that I would translate like 'moral' or 'ethics'.
The subject sums up to "thinking about the things that happen in the world and about good and bad."
She often lets the children literally illustrate 'heavy' ethical subjects.
One time parents came to visit her because they were 'concerned'. Her dear daughter had told them that they make drawings in this class. Surely, for an ethics class, this was a misunderstanding !?

greyskyeyes said...

It seems true, the Arts are on the front lines of budget cuts in public schools all around the country.

Chesterfield County, the second largest public school system in Virginia offers a fantastic magnate high school for the arts. My daughter is a rising visual art freshman at the Thomas Dale Specialty Center for the Arts (http://www.specialtycenterarts.com/) Dale is one of two arts focused programs in our locality, the other being the Appomattox Regional Governor's School for the Arts and Technology. They are incredible programs with a large percentage of graduates going on to the premier art colleges in the country, many with full ride scholarships.

Even though there have been budget cuts, our school board has, thus far, spared these programs from the axe. However, art classes in the lower grade level are sorely lacking. I've seen a marked decline in the quantity and quality of elementary classes from the 8 years between my daughter and son's education. Music rooms no longer exist. The music teachers and art teachers are floaters (your art on a cart in action). As a fellow artist and parent, I believe parental involvement is instrumental in maintaining the arts in our schools. If more parents would speak up for the arts, school boards might re-think paring them down.

Sadly, I fear that in our culture, there is more emphasis placed on education as a means to an end - that end being a lucrative career - leaving little room for creative endeavors. The Virginia SOL (standards of learning) is the basis for school accreditation in Chesterfield. The quantity of information students have to retain and spit out at the end of a period on set standardized tests leaves little room for learning anything outside the parameters of the SOL. Sadly, even creative teachers are being squelched and forced to teach "by the book." It's a great loss for our children.

What ever happened to the Renaissance approach to education? Only a century ago, creativity was encouraged and held in the highest esteem. People who weren't professional artists still kept sketchbooks and knew how to read and make music. What a difference 100 years makes.

Eerie Eric said...

i think art finds a way. and in some instances repressing a persons or childs ability to have art can build the desire to create. for me growing up i had the intense passion to create all the time, doodeling, sculpting in playdoh, i wasnt going to be stopped or suppressed.

it does really suck that schools are being forced to cut back on things like art and music.

but for some kids it only builds the desire to create and find different outlets for creativity. so in some ways these temporary lack of funds could be a good thing.

but i guess as long as they are ONLY TEMPORARY.....

Björn said...

I think art is seen upon as entertainment/recreation more than something useful and is therefore subject to cutbacks.

I remember going through all years of elementary school hungry for knowledge in art but no teacher could ever provide me with answers to the questions I had. I think, as Andrew Wales shows, that a dedicated art teacher who is an artist himself (comic book, working illustrator, fine artist..) can survive even bad times.

aaron said...

I think when the general public thinks of the arts today the first thoughts are of the "starving artist" ans the abstract works they come upon, especially in public areas nowadays. Who could blame the average person to question the need for art education when they see art that brings up the phrase "my kid could do better work than that."

sirfrancisdrake said...

I may be wrong, but it would seem to me, that art classes would be pretty cheap, all you need is your imagination, a pencil, and a piece of paper.

craigstephens said...

I'm lucky to work in a district with an arts friendly school board. My budget is a meager $200 per year but I do have a job and a wonderful classroom. I've been teaching for a long enough time that I have established some relationships in the community which sometimes pay off in the form of material donations.

I was a commercial sign painter for quite a few years before teaching and my classes have taken on sign painting and silkscreening jobs in the past to make money for our program. This would be very difficult if I didn't have a permanent base of operations (classroom) however.

Anyhow, I've only been teaching for thirteen years but even in that amount of time I've seen the money pendulum swing both ways. If art teachers can manage to keep a toehold I think things will eventually swing in a more favorable direction.

Andrew Wales said...

Craig, it's unbelievable that you work on $200 a year! I've always felt that if things got real bad financially, that I would rather have a job with no budget, than no job!

As Sir Francis says, it would be possible to do a ton of things with nothing more than #2 pencils and white paper. I don't really believe that would be best for kids, but it would be better than nothing.

However, I think there are many kids who are desperate for learning experiences that go beyond pencil and paper assessments. I think it's important for younger kids to have experiences in 3-D. Even if clay is not available, you can do a lot with salt dough and wheat paste. Not every household provides Play-dough for kids, or even makes them turn the tv off!

I agree with Craig that I predict that things will get better. In the meantime, there are things we can do. Our school recently raffled off our giant Sponge-Bob sculpture! This, along with baskets of goodies provided by teachers and classrooms raised more than $4000! Our parent-teacher group is a partnership, and doing these kinds of things help pay for a lot of the things that are "cut" from the official budget. Even a letter to our local Wal-mart got us $50, which will be used for our Sketch-a-palooza contest prizes. If things do get bad, fund-raising might become a bigger part of the job!

And, GreySkies, yes, parents and commnunity members please do speak up! School board meetings, letters to the editor, etc.

Brine Blank said...

I teach at what used to be considered a 'vocational school'. In the state of Ohio there are two similar routes in the same settings...but both (should if taught properly) focus on traditional art skills, computer use as a tool, and getting kids ready for college in a commercial art or art field. The school I work for has been very generous in meeting all of our needs. We have 24 Mac work stations complete with WACOM tablets and scanners, industry standards software ranging from Photoshop to Maya...a second room for drawing/painting/prep work, a photo room with equipment (although we use it more to control lighting for still-lifes)...lots of books...and I usually purchase enough art supplies to last all year as we focus a lot on the traditional foundational items. I recently visited a similar school out in 'farm country' on the outskirts of Columbus OH that just recently purchased a motion capture room that is supposed to be the latest and greatest technology.

Unfortunately across the nation it seems the traditional art classes like most are used to get shoved to the back of the line because the heads don't see the $$$$ value for the students...it IS there but perhaps schools need to do a better job of packaging and informing with regards to the art careers that are available. Not to mention the valuable non$$$$ aspects art and music provide in processing information and creative thinking skills that are so important across a variety of fields.

BeatricCaldwell said...

I just returned from visiting family in San Antonio and was shocked to find that my nephew's school doesn't have an art teacher and that his class rarely gets any art instruction at all. (It's at the discretion / interest of the teacher. Of course, teaching to the standardized tests comes first.)

Sad times indeed.

Mithila said...

This is somewhat like the situation that we've had in India for years and years. Art becomes available only to the leisured and the monied... children of parents who are not rich have been marked by society to carry out its highly-paid, but monotonous chores... working computers, managing sales... The sad thing here is that very often the parents themselves ask school to turn the Art period into an extra Physics session, or Maths coaching.